Thought leadership in B2B marketing – what, how, and why?

You might be the best in the world at what you do. But if the world doesn’t know you exist, how can you achieve impact on a larger scale?

That’s what takes us to thought leadership in B2B marketing, personal brand(ing) and how to position yourself as an authority in your industry. And what’s the impact we speak of? At the F Company, we used these methods to grow our revenue by 225% in two years. Keep reading to find out more!

Here’s why your people are your biggest asset 

People buy from people, especially those they know and trust. But in a world saturated with ads, it’s hard for B2B brands to build trust and stand out. Thought leadership is a way to build that trust. Taglines are never as good an alternative as a real person telling industry news, educating, and interacting with your relevant audience. This is what makes your in-house experts your biggest asset.

B2B marketing is catching up to B2C in embracing thought leadership and people advocating for products. Just look at the Thought Leader Ads allowing you to promote your employees’ posts that LinkedIn rolled out a while back. And from April 1st onwards, companies can sponsor content from any member whose page they manage, not just employees. In addition to LinkedIn, you can use blogs, podcasts, webinars, or any other channel where your audience consumes content.

Let’s unpack how to apply thought leadership in your marketing. 

Drop the sales pitches 

Thought leadership content goes beyond promotional messaging. Focus on sharing valuable insights, expert opinions, inspiration, examples, and new perspectives. Tell your audience how the solution you’re offering helps them. Give the content a personal touch, use storytelling, keep it conversational, and make it genuine. Educate, educate, and once again educate (yes, it’s that important).

Turn your employees into ambassadors 

People believe people over faceless organizations. Arguably, your product isn’t your biggest asset, your people are. That’s why one of the best ways to build thought leadership is to make your employees your product ambassadors. But how do you find the right people to do it or encourage someone to start posting on social media? 

Identify the current or potential thought leaders in your organization. Look for people with high knowledge and expertise: those who already inspire and educate people either internally or externally. Note that you can’t force your people to become thought leaders – your audience can smell inauthenticity.

Instead, here’s what you can do to nudge your people to start sharing their knowledge and engage on social media: 

  1. Elaborate on the “why” and benefits of personal branding – for the business and individuals.
  2. Assign a copywriter to proofread or even write posts for busy experts.
  3. Make content creation and social media engagement part of working hours.
  4. Schedule ideation sessions – one hour bi-weekly to create content together.
  5. Show them the impact of their effort – engagement, traffic, shares, leads and revenue.

Create and interact

Posting something a few times is not enough. Even posting consistently is not enough. If you don’t engage and converse, your content ends up almost as distant as those taglines on a website.

It’s all about conversation and communication — that’s the difference between a company’s static page and people on social media. Follow and connect with relevant people, engage with their content, and build a network. This will take your thought leadership status to the next level.

How to measure the impact

We wouldn’t be The F Company if we didn’t say that the impact of thought leadership can and should be measured with revenue. Of course before you get to closing sales, you can measure and observe overall trends and positive signals: an increase in post engagements, comments from relevant industry people, connection requests from your core audience, and conversations built on your posts. People engage with brands in various ways, many of which are invisible and impossible to attribute. So look for these smaller wins and pay attention to self-reported attribution.

The impact of thought leadership should be measured with business metrics

Organizations that focus on personal brands and thought leadership have massive potential to grow. Our team gets 5 million organic LinkedIn views yearly, which drives >60% of our new revenue. We’ve closed deals with stock-listed B2B companies through educational content alone (we know because we asked).

The trick is to experiment with new types of content and set objective measurable criteria against each experiment. Treat this as a long-term experiment and set measurable KPIs:

  • Customer Success getting an extra 100k LinkedIn engagements with the ABM list per month
  • CEO running monthly webinars generating €1m in pipeline within 6mo
  • Sales team increasing the pipeline velocity by 25% in a year

Keep working on the things that show positive signals of desired results. Pivot if you don’t. And don’t get discouraged if and when you don’t generate new business the minute you start creating content: it takes time and effort to build a relationship with people, and human behaviour is not linear.

At the end of the day, thought leadership is not a quick and dirty fix, it’s a long-term commitment to building a relationship with your audience. Consistency and increasing visibility through actively engaging with your audience are by far the best ways to guarantee you’re top-of-mind and steadily grow your brand – and generate revenue.

Are you ready to try thought leadership and start generating revenue with your B2B marketing? If you need any help, don’t hesitate to contact us.